Thursday, April 23, 2015

Active Learning Activities - Jean Pratt, Information Systems

Communication in the virtual world is a precarious thing: one constantly runs the risk of mistaking sarcasm for sincerity, assuredness for obliviousness, or smiley faces for extraordinarily poor punctuation practices :). The students of Jean Pratt’s Information System’s course ran into this very problem in her active learning activity centered on communication between collaborative, virtual teams:

Setting: Activity utilizing pod groups (8 pods with 3-4 students per pod)

Setup for the activity: Students were instructed to work through some similar diagramming activities in a PowerPoint slide deck prior to coming to class. We had worked through a similar activity in class in the preceding class period. One purpose of this activity was to give students more practice in applying the concepts and skills. Another purpose of this activity was to expose students to working in virtual teams, which are predominant in the field of information systems.

The activity had three parts:
  1. Given a scenario, students would collaboratively define business rules.
  2. Given business rules defined by another group, students would collaboratively design a data model.
  3. Given business rules from one group and resulting data model from another group, class would discuss both relational database design principles and communication across members in virtual teams
How the activity unfolded in the classroom: We started with two business scenarios requiring data collection and storage. Half the class received one scenario; the other half received the other scenario. Each group developed a set of business rules based on the scenario (business rules are the foundation for designing a relational database model). Groups were then instructed to share their business rules with another group on the other side of the classroom. The recipient group was to then develop a data model based on those business rules.

The first half of the activity went well. Student groups used the screen at their pods to define collaboratively the business rules. The last part of the activity also went well. I was able to bring up on the big screens—in a split-screen display—the business rules defined by one group and the resulting data model developed by another group. The design group didn't always design a model the way the business-rule group anticipated!

After the activity: At the end of the class period, students groups were directed to apply outside class the same concepts and skills to their 15-week client project.

Tip provided by: Jean Pratt
Write up by: Jon Pumper

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